fbpx

Recent Media

Tort lawyer tries to extort $200 million, gets burned

We’ve written before that there is a significant problem with bogus lawsuits and unscrupulous tort lawyers in our country. That’s why we launched time4legalreform.org, to track many of these cases.

Often, large tort legal firms will put advertising to rack up plaintiffs for class-action lawsuits against companies who’ve been accused of some wrongdoing, either rightly or wrongly.

Sometimes, there is collusion between plaintiffs’ attorneys and scientific authorities who conjure up “expert” testimony to use in court. We covered that in our video on IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

This week, a startling arrest has once again proven that we need legal reform in this country.

In an action filed on Monday, a Virginia-based attorney is accused of trying to extort a global chemical company out of $200 million, claiming he’ll tarnish their reputation, cause a “40% stock loss” and start a monumental “public relations nightmare”.

It is alleged that attorney Timothy Litzenburg “approached a global company in October and threatened to make public statements claiming that it had significant civil liability for manufacturing a supposedly dangerous chemical used in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller,” according to Law360.

He was arrested by authorities for attempted extortion and interstate threats, presumably against Bayer (Monsanto’s parent company), who he is pursuing in many court actions. His firm represented the plaintiff who won a $289 million verdict against Monsanto in August 2018, a verdict that was later reduced to $78 million.

This case is similar to that of Michael Avenatti, the one-time Trump foe who was arrested and charged for attempting to extort Nike out of over $20 million. He has since been charged with fraud as well, accused of embezzling even more millions from his clients.

Glyphosate, the chemical compound in Roundup, has repeatedly been proven in hundreds of studies to not be carcinogenic, including the FDA. But that hasn’t stopped lawyers from weaponizing to the court system to overturn science.

Litzenburg is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but if the allegations are true, it’s just another case that proves our legal system is being used and abused. That’s why we need #legalreform now.

We can’t afford to continue to allow bogus lawsuits and unscrupulous lawyers to completely change public policy and public opinions on science.

As Predicted, California’s Gig Economy Labor Rules Are Already Backfiring

California unions protest for passage of AB5, to make all contractors and freelancers employees.

Back in September, the state of California passed AB5, the law requiring all companies using contract workers in the state to treat them as employees.

Labor activists and unions were insistent that this law was necessary to provide security and stability to the thousands of contractors and gig economy workers throughout the state.

At the time, we warned it would be very harmful both for consumers and contractors. Our comments were featured in a Mashable article, as well as hosted on our website. Now, it seems it panned out, unfortunately.

Because of the stricter regulations on companies based in the state, various media outlets have announced they would be laying off thousands of freelance and contract workers they can no longer afford to employ.

Specifically, Vox Media, who called the law a “victory for workers everywhere“, announced it was parting ways with all of its California-based freelancers.

The layoffs are, of course, unfortunate. No one supports large and systematic firings, and certainly not in the news media, a vital industry to our democracy. But the economic trends in journalism have been negative for several years.

However, at the same time, it’s important to note that these kinds of laws, those that seem the most well-intentioned, actually end up having very detrimental effects.

That’s a lesson for practically every piece of legislation, and why we will continue to be active at the Consumer Choice Center. Laws have consequences that are very real and impact people’s lives.

Let’s hope California can clean up its act and allow freelancers and contractors to make a living without too much interference.

Consumer Choice Center Launches 21Democracy Project to Counter Authoritarian Influence

Consumer Choice Center Launches 21Democracy Project to Counter Authoritarian Influence

Washington, D.C. – Today the Consumer Choice Center is announcing a new initiative aimed at countering the influence of authoritarian regimes on consumers around the world.

The goal of 21Democracy is to highlight the risks for consumer choice, privacy, human rights, national security, and intellectual property in the light of rising authoritarianism across the globe.

“The narrative of authoritarian regimes unduly influencing consumers and policies in liberal democracies is ongoing and we must be persistent in opposing it where possible,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center.

“Whether it’s the actions of Putin’s Russia or the Chinese Communist Party, we cannot compromise the underpinnings of our liberal democratic systems in the face of authoritarian regimes.”

Articles on this theme have already been published in Politico EU and La Tribune.

Specifically, the Consumer Choice Center is deeply concerned about the threat the Communist Party of China (CPC) poses to consumers, particularly invasions of their privacy and intellectual rights. 

Too many western politicians and media figures have turned a blind eye to the threat that some Chinese companies, often de facto controlled by the Communist Party, pose to their constituents.

While we acknowledge the importance of global trade as a driver for consumer choice and prosperity, we also see the risk of this principle being hijacked by bad players. (Self-)Censorship in western movie productions and 5G networks being controlled by an authoritarian surveillance state are just two worrisome examples. 

Liberal democracies such as the EU, Canada, and the United States need to find a common approach to protect citizens from the rising influence stemming from authoritarian players such as communist China.

21Democracy aims to serve as a networking, awareness, and activation platform for combatting this threat to freedom. We will speak up when others stay silent, we build bridges between policymakers, business leaders, and government from liberal democracies, and we will lobby for policies that preserve freedom and individual liberties.

To begin these efforts, the Consumer Choice Center joined activists from Students For Liberty in Miami at the Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat game last week to protest the NBA’s silencing of dissent of its athletes and coaches when it comes to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. 

They chanted in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and spoke with fellow attendees to disapprove of the league’s position on political dissent in Hong Kong.

More information about 21Democracy can be found on the website 21Democracy.com.

CONTACT:
Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center
[email protected]
###

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. 

We represent consumers in over 100 countries across the globe and closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Confronting Slanted Journalism on Talc Litigation

When does investigative reporting cross the line into subjective advocacy? Can the coverage of high-stakes civil litigation improperly tip the scales of the legal process toward one of the parties involved? What duty of transparency do reporters owe the public when active litigants are selectively providing much of the source material and narrative framing for stories about ongoing cases?

These are just some of the troubling questions that are raised by the reporting in outlets like Reuters and the New York Times on lawsuits involving talc products made by companies like Johnson & Johnson.

In cases with such large potential impact – on public health, investors, legal precedent, and reputation – the bar for standards like objectivity, accuracy, balance, and sourcing ought to be at its very highest. But instead of sober analysis, reporting on these cases often blows through those guidelines in headlong pursuit of garish and slanted pieces that might as well have been written by the publicists for plaintiff’s attorneys. Tough questions are one thing but willfully distorted reporting is something else, especially when it misleads the public about key elements and serves a hidden agenda that is being concealed from readers.

Let’s start with the simple and easily verified fact that the talc products have been tested for impurities repeatedly and exhaustively over and over again for decades by a laundry list of independent entities. Yet even that overarching truth gets mangled. Outlets like Reuters routinely wave it away with the rhetorical formulation that “Johnson & Johnson points to studies it says…” See the sleight of hand? Reuters misleads its readers to believe these reviews aren’t objectively and independently true. Instead, Reuters insinuates these are just interpretations made by the company.

That underhanded trick also enables reporters to avoid including any of the authoritative sources that affirmed the safety. Why rely on empirical evidence or consensus findings when there’s an outlier study with hypothetical conclusions that can be cited? That’s facile and it enables reporters to elide the central question that’s at issue: do the plaintiff’s claims have a hard scientific basis?

This kind of macro omission is often used in concert with narrower, specific omissions to create the appearance of controversy or ambiguity where there is none. Take one example: In a long article, Reuters notes that in the 1970s, a researcher claimed to find “a relatively small” amount of asbestos in J&J talc. But Reuters does not tell you he re-tested and found none. Independent microscopists also tested the same lot that the researcher used and found that he was mistaken in his findings and that the samples tested did not, in fact, contain asbestos.

This tilted framing is a variation on the idea of “false equivalence” that media ethicists have long lamented in public affairs reporting. The Flat Earth Society doesn’t deserve the primary or even equal voice in news reporting, that argument holds, because the contrary evidence is so overwhelming and obvious. Yet the outlandish claim that J&J has knowingly poisoned women and children for decades, targeting minorities especially, has not only been touted by Reuters and NYT but trumpeted by those outlets on social media and through their publicity departments.

Pretending that News is Breaking

Let’s look closer at how the Plaintiff’s attorney Mark Lanier has co-opted reporters at Reuters and the New York Times. In one recent example, Reuters reporter Lisa Girion took spoon-fed material from plaintiff’s attorneys claiming that Johnson & Johnson “knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its baby powder” and then touted it as “reported here for the first time.” But that’s false in two key ways. First, those memos actually reflect a diligent concern preventing the talc from being contaminated. Second, those memos aren’t newly discovered at all – they have been open exhibits in the public record at trials that took place months and sometimes years ago. The only revelation is that the plaintiff’s attorneys were able to co-opt Reuters into dressing them up when other news outlets had rightly discounted them.  

That deceptive technique of rehashing court exhibits as if they are breaking news was on display in yet another Reuters report that outlandishly declared Johnson & Johnson had “targeted” minorities as part of a malevolent scheme. But that allegation was actually rejected by the courts because of course advertising to specific demographic groups is an entirely routine and perfectly appropriate part of marketing. In fact, the ad industry has an entire group dedicated to this socially vital practice, called the Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing. Even though it was deemed unfit for a court of law and legally irrelevant, the publicists for those trial lawyers simply rehashed the material for Reuters which happily parroted their argument.

The New York Times docuseries The Weekly also took the bait. Over the 27-minute episode, plaintiffs’ attorneys and experts are given more than 9 minutes of screen time, including Lanier dramatically staging a scene for reporters interviewing him in his Houston office. File boxes filled with documents from Johnson & Johnson are stacked with dramatic thuds in front of reporters. The ruse works. The New York Times reports Lanier’s theory as verifiably true. Johnson & Johnson’s representative is given just under 3.5 minutes to defend the product and every claim is questioned by reporters along the way. None of the hundreds of independent experts who have confirmed talc’s safety are interviewed. 

Publicity as a Legal Cudgel

But why do the trial lawyers put such an emphasis on influencing the media and driving a narrative? Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera (no softie on big business) explained part of the strategy in a recent column. “For decades, ever since the trial lawyers realized that if they acted in concert, they had a high likelihood of landing a big payday, even if the facts were not on their side. This has become the business model for the plaintiff’s bar.” Nocera added, “Once the lawyers have a product in their sights, the next step — and this is key – is to find not just a handful of people who believed they’ve suffered harm as a result of using the product. They also need tens of thousands of ‘victims.’ How do they find them? By advertising.”

That’s why the free publicity that’s being provided by Reuters and the New York Times is so essential. It allows them to solicit additional members of a class action and at the same time, it helps validate the claims of the complaint in the eyes of prospective jurors.

The best perk of all, however, is how the cheerleading from the national press puts downward pressure on a company’s stock price. That’s leverage the trial lawyers then use to strong-arm a financial settlement. The day after the first Reuters story appeared, the plaintiff’s attorney Mark Lanier appeared on CNBC to brag about how his help to the reporters had caused a $40 billion drop in the company market cap. “I think this litigation can be resolved for much less than $40 billion,” Lanier crowed. “So [the article] serves my purposes as a litigant to say, ‘yes, get their attention, keep driving the stock down.”

Tune out the Skeptics

It doesn’t take a seasoned media critic to spot the holes in the reporting or the half-baked legal theory that supports it. Each piece from Reuters and the New York Times on the talc litigation has been thoroughly eviscerated by numerous readers that have expertise in fields varying from epidemiology, oncology, and medical research.

The media is complicit in the scheme. Reporters are no longer objective as they are angling for financial benefits the same as the trial attorney. Unless dramatic steps in transparency are taken by Reuters and The New York Times, their coverage and claims should be dismissed as fast by the public as they are by the court.  

How Can We Improve Healthcare Today?

As 2019 wraps up, there is plenty of ample opportunity to discuss what should be the priorities for Congressional lawmakers in 2020.

What is top of mind for many Americans, of course, is healthcare.

It’s as much about the cost as it is about services and the ability to choose what works best for you and your family.

On the Democratic side, many presidential candidates are endorsing Medicare For All as an answer. We’d be inclined to disagree.

Others have focused just on repealing Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act). A challenge to its constitutionality is once more making its way through the courts.

Here’s a quick breakdown that we believe would empower consumer choice, affordability, and make people better off today.

👉Allow health professionals to practice in every state (reciprocity)

👉Reduce barriers to entry for health professionals, and create more streamlined license recognition for immigrants

👉Promote price of care transparency

👉Keep pharma competitive and protect IP to offer the best treatments

👉Digitize records to upgrade our systems

👉Emphasize the role of catastrophic insurance

👉Allow portability of insurance between employers

👉Allow additional tax benefits for those who save money for health costs (HSAs, etc.) and let them use where necessary

👉Allow insurance companies to offer plans and compete across state lines

Bauernfängerei durch Urintests

Titelbild

In Frankreich finden sich Glyphosat-Rückstände im Urin von Bauern. Ungefährlich, weil weiter unter den Grenzwerten. Trotzdem werden solche Resultate für die Öko-Stimmungsmache genutzt.

Wenn Sie noch nie von „Glyphosat-Pissern” gehört haben, dann erwartet Sie bei einem Blick in die aktuellen Ausgaben französischer Zeitungen eine wilde Lesereise. Seit April 2018 haben 6000 Landwirte Glyphosat in ihrem Urin „gefunden“, das über dem Grenzwert für Trinkwasser liegt. Dieser ist auf 0,1 Mikrogramm pro Liter festgelegt. „Nur drei Teilnehmer lagen unter diesem Wert”, sagte ein 66-jähriger Umweltaktivist der französischen Zeitung Libération. Diese Aktivisten haben die französischen Bauern davon überzeugt, dass durch das Verklagen von Pestizidproduzenten möglicherweise viel Geld zu holen ist. Nichts scheint attraktiver sein, als zu versuchen, Millionen Euro an Schadenersatz zu kassieren, wie es in den Vereinigten Staaten bereits passiert ist.

Über 1.500 Beschwerden über „Glyphosatpisse” wurden wegen „Gefährdung des Lebens anderer”, „Täuschung” und „Umweltschäden” eingereicht. Die französische Kampagnengruppe Campagne glyphosate behauptet auf ihrer Website, dass 100 Prozent der Tests positiv ausgefallen seien. Überhaupt kein Risiko, liebe Bauern, unterschreiben Sie einfach hier! Die Kosten für den Test und die Beschwerdeeinreichung belaufen sich auf 135 Euro.

Bei den 100 Prozent müssten eigentlich die Alarmglocken läuten, denn neu ist diese Zahl nicht. Zumindest nicht für Deutsche. Im Juni 2015 ließen die deutschen Grünen 16 Proben von Muttermilch in Deutschland analysieren, mit 100 Prozent positiven Ergebnissen auf Glyphosat. Die Geschichte wurde mithilfe der Medien groß aufgemacht und löste bei stillenden Müttern große Verunsicherung aus. Kurz darauf wurden im Rahmen der Kampagne „Urinale” der Bürgerinitiative Landwende 2000 Urinproben von deutschen Bürgern analysiert. Diesmal waren 99,6% der Ergebnisse positiv.

Laut Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung liegen Glyphosatrückstände in der Muttermilch nicht über den gesetzlichen Grenzwerten.

Im Mai 2016 ließ die Fraktion der Grünen im Europäischen Parlament den Urin von 48 Mitgliedern des Europäischen Parlaments testen, ebenfalls mit 100 Prozent positiven Ergebnissen. Im März 2017 wurden 27 Urinproben von dänischen Müttern und Kindern analysiert, auch hier wieder mit 100 Prozent positiven Ergebnissen.

An den aktuellen Tests ist BioCheck, das 1997 von Monika Krüger mitgegründete Forschungslabor mit Sitz in Deutschland, maßgeblich beteiligt. Frau Krüger selbst ist eine Anti-Pestizid-Aktivistin. Nicht unbedingt eine gute Voraussetzung für solide und objektive Forschungsarbeit. Aber gut, Tests sind schlussendlich Tests, oder? Nicht ganz.

Nehmen wir die 16 Proben von Muttermilch, die zu 100 Prozent kontaminiert waren? Das Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) bestätigte, dass es keinerlei Beweise dafür gibt, dass Glyphosatrückstände in der Muttermilch über den gesetzlichen Grenzwerten liegen. Die beiden vom BfR in Auftrag gegebenen unabhängigen Studien wurden in einem Artikel für das Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry zusammengefasst. Sie verwendeten die Flüssigkeitschromatographie in Verbindung mit der Massenspektrometrie (LC-MS/MS) oder die Gaschromatographie in Verbindung mit der Massenspektrometrie (GC-MS/MS) – Verfahren, die nach Angaben des BfR zehnmal vertrauenswürdiger sind als Standardtests zum Nachweis von Pestiziden und 75-mal vertrauenswürdiger als die von BioCheck.

BioCheck hatte einen ELISA-Test eingesetzt, um zu seinen Schlussfolgerungen zu kommen. Dieser enzymgebundene Immunosorbent-Assay ist ein Test, der Antikörper in Ihrem Blut nachweist und misst. Dem Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung zufolge sei der Nachweis von Glyphosat an sich ein grundlegend kompliziertes Unterfangen und ELISA dafür kein geeigneter Weg sei. Marcel Kuntz, Forschungsdirektor am CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) in Grenoble, sieht in ELISA ebenso wenig einen genauen Test zum Nachweis von Pestiziden.

Horrorgeschichten über ‚giftige Rückstände‘ in unserem Körper sollen Angst und Misstrauen hervorrufen.

Deshalb hat BioCheck wahrscheinlich nur 75 Euro für ihre Urintests berechnet. Man bekommt immer das, wofür man zahlt. Schlagzeilen über gefährliche Milch oder allgemein gefährliches Essen wurden bereits geschrieben und veröffentlicht, ohne Korrektur. Wo liegt dann jetzt noch das Problem? Fakt ist: Wir haben es mit einer gründlichen Perversion wissenschaftlicher Methoden zu tun. Die Tests dienen hier nur zu Propagandazwecken. Was die Aktivisten den Bauern wohl auch verschwiegen haben: Der Grenzwert für Trinkwasser liegt sehr viel niedriger als die Grenzwerte für die unbedenkliche Aufnahme von Pestiziden. Als in Deutschland versucht wurde, Mütter durch den Nachweis von Glyphosat in Muttermilch in Panik zu versetzen, zeigte sich, dass ein vier Kilogramm schwerer Säugling der am stärksten belasteten deutschen Mutter 2778 Liter Muttermilch pro Tag trinken müsste, um den Grenzwert zu überschreiten. Hätte man den Grenzwert der Weltgesundheitsorganisation genommen, wären es sogar 9260 und beim US-Grenzwert 16.200 Liter. In den USA liegt der Grenzwert für Trinkwasser aus diesem Grund 7000-mal höher als in der EU.

Tatsächlich würde man mit sehr aufwändigen und entsprechend leistungsfähigen Tests tatsächlich Glyphosatspuren im Urin französischer Bauern nachweisen können. Einfach deshalb, weil man mit diesen extrem empfindlichen Methoden überall auf der Welt Glyphosatspuren nachweisen kann. Da wir mit der Nahrung sehr geringe Mengen Glyphosat aufnehmen, scheiden wir es mit dem Urin (glücklicherweise) auch wieder aus. Nur sagt das rein gar nichts über eine Gesundheitsgefährdung aus.

Wir wissen, dass Glyphosat ungefährlich ist: Wenn wir uns die wissenschaftliche Literatur ansehen, stellen wir fest, dass es sich um ein Herbizid handelt, das sicher zu verwenden und für die moderne Landwirtschaft notwendig ist. Horrorgeschichten über „giftige Rückstände” in unserem Körper sollen Angst und Misstrauen hervorrufen, leider mit großem Erfolg. Viele Staaten geben dem Druck nach und haben entsprechende Produkte verboten. Für diese Aktivisten ist es nicht von Interesse, verlässlichere Tests mit Bezug auf gesundheitsrelevante Grenzwerte in Betracht zu ziehen. Ihnen geht es nur darum, Stimmung zu machen, weil sie damit vor Gericht Klagen gewinnen und die Öffentlichkeit für ihre unwissenschaftlichen Ansichten begeistern können. Das ist eine Schande.

Ursprünglich hier veröffentlicht.

Vaping is a more effective smoke reduction tool than government policies

Middle schoolers, high schoolers, and university students have increased their use of e-cigarettes, despite rising public concern. While underage nicotine consumption and smoking-related lung disease deaths are a real problem, legal vaping products, and accurate consumer information can combat instead of worsen these effects. We should welcome the presence of alternatives to tobacco, and endorse safe, and legal options.

At the beginning, there were the strange cigarette look-alikes that light up as you took a drag. Now, the e-cigarette market has expanded to include safer alternatives, ranging from popular Juul products to vapes the size of a pistol grip. In Europe, the so-called “heat-not-burn” also constitutes a new type of vape, by heating up the tobacco instead of burning it, thus avoiding the more unhealthy effects of tobacco combustion. The idea that these alternatives are a good thing will raise eyebrows for many, and rightfully so. If you’ve followed the health scare surrounding vaping, you’d think that the mere thought of encouraging e-cigarettes is problematic.

While no potentially harmful product should ever be encouraged, we should recognize its harm-reducing effects. The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, assessed in 2015–confirmed since then–that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking conventional cigarettes. Between 2011 and 2017, the number of smokers in the UK fell from 19.8% to 14.9%. At the same time, the number of e-cigarette users rose: almost half of these consumers use e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking. The UK is an example that shows how a permissive vaping policy is better at helping those who want to quit smoking.

On the other hand, the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as most European nations, have released serious public health warnings regarding vaping. A recent spike in vaping-related lung illnesses has made officials afraid of the rise of e-cigarettes. Symptoms of those affected by recent illnesses include trouble breathing, chest pain, fatigue, and vomiting. About half the patients are teenagers or young adults.

Here is where giving the full picture is important.

The two main ingredients used in vape liquids, propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG), are used to form their vapor and add flavor. Added to these two ingredients is a third, usually a common food flavoring found in cakes, oils, and other food items. All of these compounds are common food ingredients that are deemed healthy and safe by regulatory bodies including the FDA. Other variable ingredients include the stimulant alkaloid nicotine. Although not all vape liquids contain nicotine, the addictive chemical is the main draw for smokers that want to quit smoking. Compared to other alternatives, like the Nicotine Replacement Therapy patches and drugs, vaping has been found to be more effective.

On Dec. 6, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a report which uncovered that none of the patients affected in recent cases had used conventional nicotine vapes. Most of the affected consumers had used black-market THC products—many in states that have not legalized marijuana. In most of these terrible cases of vaping-related lung disease, Vitamin E has been found in these moonshine liquids. Vitamin E is very harmful when inhaled.

In Europe, more countries are approaching the issue from a different direction. Portugal’s Directorate-General for Health released a statement saying users should refrain from modifying their e-cigarette liquids or add any substances that aren’t legally marketed and labeled. That is certainly a more consumer information-based approach than the state of Michigan, which decided to ban flavored vaping outright (at least as a temporary measure).

If we want to combat deaths arising from black market products, we have to embrace safe legal products. A legal and regulated market is the best method for rooting out bad products and actors. A ban on flavored liquids will only drive those who wish to use flavored vaping products to the black market, or back to cigarettes. Recent studies have shown that if vaping products are outlawed, current vapors are more likely to return to smoking. That would be very consequential for public health.

A lot of myth-busting needs to be done on the issue of e-cigarettes. More than that, however, let’s just consider what harm-reducing products have actually done. The government has tried for decades to get people to stop smoking. In order to do that, it has utilized paternalistic policies, like taxation, restrictions on packaging and sales, which have all been shown to be ineffective. All reduction in cigarette sales has been offset by a spike in black market sales. In this shadow economy, consumers are being misled, and people get hurt.

We need to encourage the marketing and branding of safe and legal vaping products. Consumer information is necessary in order to crowd out dangerous black market products.

Vaping has achieved what decades of government policies couldn’t–gave consumers a viable alternative. This type of innovation should be celebrated, not reprimanded.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Viewpoint: Conservatives say UK could break from ‘outdated’ EU GMO, CRISPR regulations if they sweep ’Brexit election’

On the 12th of December, the United Kingdom will hold a general election. With the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) remaining unresolved, tensions are as high as ever. Once out of the EU, though, the UK could regain full control over its laws and regulations.

Though the election debate has centered around immigration, security and healthcare, the question of what direction the UK should take in terms of science policy persists. Will the UK manage to unleash the potential of its biotechnological sector and become a global advocate for innovation and consumer choice, or will it retain the EU’s antiquated approach?

In a manifesto released in November, the Conservatives pledged to take the path of “science-led, evidence-based policy” to improve the quality of food, agriculture and land management. Previously, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to liberate the UK’s biotech sector from the EU’s anti-genetic modification rules.

ECJ
Image: iStock/Zerbor

The laws that concern genetically modified organisms in the UK are primarily based on European Union regulations. For years, the EU has backpedaled on agricultural innovation, preventing European consumers from accessing biologically enhanced food. This can be seen in the very limited number of genetically modified crops authorized for cultivation in the EU, and a very cumbersome and expensive process of importing genetically modified crops from other countries. In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that gene-edited plants should be regulated the same way that genetically modified organisms are regulated, rendering them practically illegal and hindering innovation even further.

If the UK chooses to move away from these EU-based regulations as a consequence of Brexit, it could become a forward-looking global biotech powerhouse.

The first step would be to replace fear-based skepticism of genetic modification with an evidence-based, pro-innovation approach. Despite popular rhetoric, there is no substantial scientific evidence behind the alleged health and environmental risks ascribed to GM products. Abandoning these baseless assertions and creating and sustaining the conditions under which UK farmers could innovate, lower their production costs, and use fewer chemicals would be an enterprising move on the part of the UK government.

Approving GM pest-resistant crops, for instance, could save about £60 million ($79 million) a year in pesticide use in the UK. Moreover, £60 million in savings would mean more leeway for competitive food pricing in a country where prices at the grocery store are rising 2 percent annually.

Once restrictive genetic modification laws are relaxed, it would be necessary to enable easy market access for GM foods. Under current EU legislation, products containing GMOs need to be labeled as such, and the requirements also apply to non-prepacked foods. It is legally established that such products (soy, for example) not only require written documentation but also should have an easily readable notice about their origin. No such rule exists with regards to foods that are 100% GMO-free, meaning there is explicit discrimination in place giving GMO-free food an unfair advantage on the market.

The EU’s strict regulations on the use of GM technology have been, first and foremost, harmful to consumers, depriving them access to innovative options such as Impossible Foods’ plant-based burger, which so closely mimics meat thanks to an ingredient produced with the help of genetically engineered yeast. Vastly popular in the US and now expanding to Asia, vegan burgers using plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products, are absent from the European market due to backwards-looking anti-GM rules.

The United Kingdom should strive for the smartest regulation in the field of approval and market access to GMOs. Relaxed regulations on gene-editing methods like CRISPR-Cas9 could also attract massive investment and lead to wide-reaching biotech innovation in the UK.

Enabling gene-editing is an essential part of unleashing scientific innovation in the United Kingdom after Brexit. Skepticism of gene-editing centers around the potential but largely exaggerated adverse effects of the technology and ignores the astonishing benefits that could accrue to both farmers and consumers.

If the UK manages to replace the EU’s overly cautious biotech rules with a pro-innovation and prosperity-fostering regulatory scheme, it could become a true global biotech powerhouse. This is an ambitious, exciting, and above all, achievable future.

Building a Stronger Justice System to Grow Safer Communities

Helping people resolve their legal issues faster and more affordably

TORONTO — The Ontario government is taking action to make it easier, faster and more affordable for people to access the justice system.

Today, Attorney General Doug Downey introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act to simplify a complex and outdated justice system. If passed, the bill would modernize and improve how legal aid services are delivered, class actions are handled, court processes are administered and make life easier for Ontarians by paving the way to allow identities and legal documents to be verified online.

“We have heard loud and clear from people across Ontario that the justice system has grown too complex and outdated, and needs to better support the growth of safer communities while standing up for victims of crime and law-abiding citizens,” said Attorney General Downey. “Our government is proposing smart and sensible reforms that will allow people to spend less time and money resolving their legal matters while strengthening access to the legal supports Ontarians need.”

Included in this proposed legislation are amendments that would give Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) the tools it needs to help clients resolve their legal issues faster and with fewer road blocks. The proposed changes build on the strengths of community legal clinics, duty counsel and the use of private bar certificates to fix or replace outdated processes. They also provide LAO the authority to make rules about operational matters. As a result of these changes, LAO could seamlessly and sustainably provide high quality services to clients where and when they need them.

“The new Legal Aid Services Act is an important step towards improving access to justice in Ontario. It offers opportunities for innovation, and allows us to address gaps in the justice system. This legislation, if passed, would allow Legal Aid Ontario and its valued service providers—including staff, clinics and the private bar—to better serve clients,” said David Field, CEO, LAO.

The Attorney General also confirmed that, following extensive consultations, LAO’s 2020-2021 funding will be maintained at its current levels. 

Other proposed amendments would move Ontario towards a stronger and smarter justice system by:

  • paving the way to allow for the online verification of identity and legal documents for transactions such as real estate agreements, gifting a used vehicle to a family member or starting a claim in court
  • enhancing Ontario’s civil forfeiture laws to ensure crime does not pay and proceeds of crime are used to support victims of illegal activity
  • prioritizing the interests of Ontarians in class action lawsuits so they receive faster, more transparent and more meaningful compensation and access to justice
  • making it easier for cyberbullying victims to sue offenders convicted of the offence of non-consensual distribution of an intimate image
  • allowing for a simplified procedure for small estates, making it less costly to administer estates of a modest value
  • increasing the maximum fine for lawyers and paralegals who engage in professional misconduct and stopping the practice of government footing the bill for legal fees incurred by judges and justices of the peace who are dismissed due to misconduct
  • amending the death registration process to ease the burden for families when faced with registering the death of a loved one in the absence of their remains.

“The amendments announced by the government today respond to an evolving legal landscape,” said Law Society Treasurer Malcolm Mercer. “The Law Society is specifically pleased with the amendments to the Law Society Act, all of which will help provide greater public protection. We thank the government for moving ahead on these changes which assist in regulation of the legal professions in the public interest.”

In total, the proposed legislation includes changes to more than 20 acts that would simplify complex and outdated processes so justice works better for Ontarians.

Quotes

“We are very pleased Attorney General Downey continues to recognize the foundational role community legal clinics play in creating a strong Ontario justice system that protects vulnerable members of our communities and provides them with the legal services they need.”
– Trudy McCormick, Co-Chair, Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario

“This new legislation will improve the delivery of legal aid services in Ontario while ensuring  independent community legal clinics continue to work closely with the communities they serve in identifying their needs and in providing poverty law services to their clients.”
– Gary Newhouse, Co-Chair, Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario

“The Ontario Paralegal Association applauds the Ontario government for putting forward proposed changes to the Notaries Act and the Commissioners for taking Affidavits Act that would make it easier for paralegals in their daily practice to fully serve their clients. These changes will make accessing notary services easier and improve access to justice for Ontarians. We are pleased that Attorney General Downey has listened to our concerns and is moving forward on this change.”
– George Brown, President, The Ontario Paralegal Association

“Allowing for virtual commissioning and notarizing is a positive step for those using legal services. Permitting virtual commissioning and notarizing ultimately makes the system more consumer friendly and more responsive. From a consumer standpoint, this is a welcomed change.”
– David Clement, North American Affairs Manager, Consumer Choice Center

“This bill is a breakthrough needed to modernize Ontario’s legal system. Permitting online verification of an individual’s identity and legal documents will level the legal services playing field for all Ontarians. No matter where a person lives, when they work, or what mobility or ability challenges they may face, they will soon be able to access the same high quality legal services that are easily accessible in urban centres across Ontario.”
– Lena Koke, CEO and Co-Founder, Axess Law

“Ontario’s police leaders continue to work with the government and our partners to modernize our justice system and make it more efficient. We support the proposed legislative changes to the Civil Remedies Act, 2001 because it will simplify the processes around personal property forfeitures while also relieving the burdens on our police personnel and the court system.”
– Chief Paul Pedersen, President, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police

“Consumers Council of Canada agrees with the reforms that have emerged from the Law Commission of Ontario consultation process and the Attorney General’s own review. This legislation is critical to access justice for Ontario residents, especially so for consumers. The Council supports the reforms designed to make class representatives and their counsel more transparent and accountable for their actions on behalf of class members.”
– Don Mercer, President, Consumers Council of Canada

Quick Facts

  • Ontario’s legal aid legislation has not been substantially updated since 1998.
  • Ontario’s civil forfeiture laws allow the government to take the profits of illegal activity (e.g., a telemarketing scam, trafficking of drugs or guns, sexual exploitation or forced labour) and give it back to the victims of that crime or fund projects to support victims and target criminals. The changes would simplify the process to take the profits of illegal activity from criminals.
  • Ontario’s class action legislation has not been substantially updated in more than 25 years.

Banning Cannabis Vape May Lead to Bigger Black Market Problem, Warns Consumer Choice Center

Banning Cannabis Vape May Lead to Bigger Black Market Problem, Warns Consumer Choice Center

The Consumer Choice Center says the province’s cannabis vape ban is a dangerous mistake.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced that it is not going to allow the sale of cannabis vape products in Newfoundland and Labrador – at least for the time-being.

David Clement of the Consumer Choice Center, an anti-regulation non-profit organization, says the move to ban cannabis vape devices does more harm than good, and will put consumer safety at risk.

Clement says available evidence shows that severe lung illnesses from vaping are being caused by illegal vape products with harmful and prohibited additives, that are not in legal products.

He says the ban prevents legal and compliant products from stamping out the black market alternatives that are hurting people, making the problem worse.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Scroll to top